Casting the net: 5 under-the-radar 300m divers from Blancpain to SinnThor Svaboe
The 300m depth rating is for many people a marker of what a proper diver’s watch should be, and there are some obvious contenders out there. But if you look beyond the usual suspects, there are a lot of under-the-radar options also worth considering from chronographs to monster dive instruments.
Just don’t mention the term “desk diver”, with one of these babies you are expected to at least sign up to an entry-level SCUBA course this summer.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms X Fathoms
Forget optimistic phrases like “might even slip under a dressy shirt” – this monster will do no such thing as an uncompromising tool watch in its purest form. The specs of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms X Fathoms border on the insane, coming in at a whopping 55mm diameter with a none too discreet 24mm thickness. But that bulk enables it to pack in the following mechanical features: a proper mechanical depth gauge with depth indication on two scale, an amorphous metal membrane, maximum depth memory with secured reset pusher, retrograde 5-minute counter, seconds, matte black dial, one-way rotating bezel, and a decompression valve. The Ploprof seems like a dress watch in comparison. Wear one to a GTG and you’ll never be forgotten. Price: $40,700 USD
Jaeger Le Coultre Polaris Mariner Memovox
Memovox is an evocative name from the fifties and, for the nerdier of us, a signifier of a mechanical alarm in a wristwatch. This may be completely irrelevant for us today with our tiny computers masquerading as phones, but it was a technical tour de force of its time. In 2020, Jaeger Le Coultre released their deep blue dialled Polaris series, yet another evocative mid-century name for an adventurous explorer / field watch. To my amazement JLC presented this 300m depth-rated diver’s watch in a tough 42mm case to combine the two in what is one hell of a quirky, un-categorisable tool watch. Exactly what I love. It’s like one of those crazy American breakfast plates you see in the movies, with everything from sausages, bacon and syrup-laden pancakes all on the same plate. Although that is not the right picture to give you, because this simply works. While presenting you with a hypnotising three-step dial of deep blue degrade, in a Compressor case with an internal dive bezel, and aforementioned alarm indicator disc. And with blatant disregard for hairlines that’ll only increase its charm, the flat H-link bracelet has the dazzle of polish on the outer links, while the brushwork stays in the middle, matching thick and angular lugs. With the school bell alarm sound emanating from the Calibre 956 with its 70 hour power reserve, the orange flashy pops on the dark dial mark one of the most noticeable 300m diver’s watches out there, try it on at $27,300 AUD and you will be tempted.
Sinn 206 Arktis II
Looks can be very deceiving, and here is the ice-cool proof. In this case, this is nothing but a compliment to the monochrome German toolmasters at Sinn Uhrenfabrik. It’s fresher than a hacked off piece of glacier (I’m in Norway mate, I know), in a timeless chronograph case with what looks like a classic Valjoux 7750-formation dial. Then you notice the text on the rather busy but supremely legible dial. Sinn are nothing but exact of nature, and rather sharp on both dial print and AR-treatment of sapphire crystals. This latter part will have to a be a story for another time – newsflash: AR-treatment quality and coats differ – and Sinn understands this small detail, meaning crystal (no pun intended) clear non-reflective views. Unlike most diving chronographs, the Sinn 206 Arktis II has a proper 300m depth rating, certified by DNV (Marine certification) to diving equipment standards. The red pop of circled Ar logo means it has the patented Sinn dehumidifying tech within the case, and is tested for the mind-blowing temperature range of -45C to +80C. Add one of the best captive bezels with a Leica-like clicking action, and this is an impressive instrument. And yes, you’re right, the movement is the old-school Valjoux 7750, within what is a blisteringly cool 43mm tool of epic specs. Price: EUR 3,690 on a bracelet
Ulysse Nardin Lemon Shark
Ulysse Nardin is a venerable Swiss brand that flies under the radar with their standard catalogue, being named mostly in the top tier of Haute Horlogerie with their hypnotising Freak collection, and futuristic skeleton pieces like the Blast . Ulysse Nardin make some great examples of formal elegance, and a cool series of diver’s watches including this brand new limited edition Lemon Shark reference. It’s a stealth-tough black DLC case of an ergonomic-lugged 42mm, with exquisite pops of yellow to liven up the proceedings, and a 300m depth rating. With its recognisable circular-striated concave bezel, there is a contemporary feel and balance to the dial with legibility in focus. There is strong “shark grey” Super Luminova application, a perfectly placed discreet date at 6, and all for a good cause – Ulysse Nardin teamed up with world renowned shark experts dedicated to the study of marine life and ocean conservation in the form of OCEARCH and the FIU Medina Aquarius Program. The strap is a comfortable looking R-Strap, a black textile strap made from recycled fishing nets, with a velcro closure and black titanium hardware. At the heart of the Ulysse Nardin Lemon Shark is the calibre UN-816, based on the Sellita SW-300 with signature silicon tech incorporated by Ulysse Nardin. Price: $7,300USD
So, you want to try out a proper diver’s watch for less than $500 USD? Well, this Helm Komodo comes in under $300USD. At the price, it’s a perfect entry ticket into both small, tough tool watches, and mechanical horology in general. Helm is responsible for a few chunky tool watches, unashamedly large on heavy bracelets and implying a tougher image than I for one can live up to. The Komodo, at 40mm, is their smallest offering, and packs a lot of punch for the price, including a 300-metre depth rating and a fat sapphire crystal. What it does have is a full ISO 6425 compliant diver spec, and some eye-popping colourful details befitting a bold microbrand with a strong following. The dials come in a few alternatives, like a clear white, with super-fresh applied indices that pop with turquoise lume. The two other alternatives are black, with the lume being either white or turquoise, and dynamic red minute and seconds hands. The size is a comfortable 40mm x 47mm, unashamedly chubby at 15.5mm with a Seiko NH35 on a steel bracelet, and drilled lugs. Price $285 USD